The work and intellectual history of Ernesto Laclau (1935-2014), Journal Pléyade ISSN 0718-655x

Center for Political Analysis and Research 
Call for Papers Journal Pléyade ISSN 0718-655x 
No. 16 Second Semester 2015 

The work and intellectual history of Ernesto Laclau (1935-2014) 

This dossier of Journal Pléyade is dedicated to the work and intellectual history of Argentinean political theorist Ernesto Laclau (1935-2014). After completing his doctorate in the United Kingdom (1977), Laclau worked for many years as Professor of Political Theory and later as Professor Emeritus at the University of Essex, where he created a groundbreaking doctoral program on the analysis of ideologies and discourse. He also worked in renowned North American universities such as Northwestern University. Nonetheless, Laclau never lost touch with the latest developments in Latin America. Proof of this is that even in the later years of his career, he founded the Debates y Combates journal, conceived as a forum for theoretical discussion that, from a political point of view, sought to play an active part in and shed light on the changes that have taken place in Latin America in the last decade with the election of national-popular governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina. 

Taking an intellectual history approach, Laclau’s work can be divided into three relatively clear phases. The first was marked by his attempt to create a Marxist theory of ideology and politics based on the works of Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser. In this period, Laclau made important contributions to the internal debate in Western Marxism, such as his collection of essays Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory (1977) and the groundbreaking article Marxist Theories of the State: Debates and Perspectives (1981). In the second stage, Laclau explored a theory of post-Marxist hegemony incorporating post-structuralist philosophy. The publication of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, written jointly with his life-partner Chantal Mouffe (1985), earned him international recognition as a political theorist. In Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Laclau and Mouffe criticized the economic determinism and essentialism of Marxist thought. Taking a more proactive approach, they offered an original reflection about the new sociopolitical identities and a reading of politics as a hegemonic practice free of the determinisms of class. The third phase, in turn, can be characterized as a maturing of the consequences of the latter stage, as Laclau sought a greater development of the post-Marxist focus by means of a deeper engagement with Jacques Derrida’s deconstructivist philosophy and Jacques Lacan´s psychoanalytical theory. 

Hegemony and Socialist Strategy would be followed by New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time (1991), Emancipation and Difference (1996), and a controversial volume co-written with Butler and Žižek titled Contingency, Hegemony, Universality (2003), On Populist Reason (2005), and finally a collection of posthumous essays The Rhetorical Constitution of Society (2014). Together, these publications reveal a deepening of Laclau’s thought and the development of an original political and social theory. 

Laclau’s post-Marxist theory brought together apparently dissimilar theoretical bodies that he interpreted as parallel efforts to resolve the main aporiae of modern social thought. His analyses were inspired by concepts and ideas taken from Husserl, Heidegger, Schmitt, Derrida, Wittgenstein, and an extensive corpus of Western philosophy and political theory. With further contributions from Anglo-American and continental analytical philosophies, Laclau creatively combined structural and post-Saussurean linguistics, rhetoric, Lacanian psychoanalysis and Western Marxism, especially in its Gramscian current. This apparent eclecticism, however, did not detract from his theory of discourse, which over a number of decades remained true to its ontological and epistemological anti-essentialist and post-foundational premises. 

The concepts of discourse, articulation, hegemony, dislocation and antagonism, radical democracy and populism are the pillars upon which Laclau built his social and political theory. In addition to the aforementioned, other important theories such as the nodal point, the empty signifier, the logics of equivalence and difference, sedimentation and reactivation, myth and the imaginary, ideology and identity as identification, lay the grounds for a theoretical edifice that is at once complex and rich and that has inspired and stimulated countless studies on political, social and cultural phenomena. 

Also worthy of mention is the recent political influence that Laclau’s intellectual work has had on the national-popular governments that have come to power in Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and the social movements that burst onto the political scene in places as different as Spain with its indignados movement; Greece, with the recent rise of Syriza and Chile, with its large-scale mobilizations for public education. 

In summary, Laclau left a vital theoretically and politically influential legacy is worth revisiting a year from his passing. Therefore, this dossier invites authors to make contributions in the different areas where Laclau’s work found expression (whether theoretically and politically). Along these lines, the proposed themes could include: 

–        Contemporary debates on politics and the political 
–        New perspectives on radical democracy 
–        Marxism and post-Marxism revisited 
–        Populism in Laclau’s political theory 
–        Laclau’s contribution to Latin American national-popular governments 
–        Laclau’s political theory and its influence on the new European political processes:     the case of Podemos and Syricia 
–        Laclau’s political theory and its influence on the movement for public education in Chile 
–        History of Laclau’s post-Marxist theory of discourse 
–        Laclau in dialogue with other traditions of thought 
–        Methodologies, analytical strategies, conceptualization and operationalization of Laclau’s theory of discourse 
–        Laclau in debate: with Žižek, Butler, Badiou, Ranciere, Negri among others. 
–        Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory in cultural analysis (literature, arts, media and cultural studies). 

Ricardo Camargo (Professor of Political Science Universidad of Talca – Santiago Campus). 
Hernán Cuevas (Adjunct Researcher of the Institute for Social Sciences (ICSO) Diego Portales University). 


Nicolás Del Valle O. (Researcher of Centre for Political Analysis and Research)

Reception until:                   4 September, 2015 
Languages:                          English or Spanish 
Publication date:                  December 2015 

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Manuscripts will be evaluated by double blind refereeing 

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